Are you a point leader? — 3 questions to consider

April 27, 2021

“Point leader” is the phrase I use to describe the person who is ultimately responsible. A senior pastor, a chief executive, a sole proprietor, a church planter, a head coach, a mayor or a governor are examples.

Numerous times over the last several years, I have had church planters, would-be church planters and pastors ask me, “Do you think I’m a point leader?” Rarely have I ever answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Instead, I often ask questions or describe characteristics that are common in point leaders.

If you have ever wondered whether or not you have what it takes to be a point leader, here are three questions to help cultivate self-awareness.

What motivates you?
If the motivations that prompt you to action are internal, you have a foundational characteristic essential for point leadership. If you need external motivations, like a paycheck or detailed directions to get you moving, it’s unlikely that you are ready for point leadership.

A church planter who was struggling once told me, “I’m a task-oriented person. You give me a task list and I can execute.” Without hesitation, I replied, “Bubba, you ain’t ever going to plant a church like that.” (Incidentally, if I ever address you as “Bubba,” that means there is something important about to follow.)

I followed up by explaining that a leader does not need someone to tell him what to do. A leader determines what needs to be done, creates the task list, and then leads others to take ownership of those tasks in order to fulfill the mission.

Point leaders find themselves taking action driven by a sense of mission, their own curiosity or an internal desire to accomplish or learn something.

Point leaders find themselves taking action driven by a sense of mission, their own curiosity or an internal desire to accomplish or learn something.

How do you respond when difficult decisions are before you?
No one wants to face difficult decisions or challenging circumstances. Yet, they will come, as sure as the sun rises in the east.

If those situations overwhelm you with paralyzing anxiety that prevents you from making any decision, it is a clear indication that the responsibility of the role is too much for you to bear.

Years ago, a young man was exploring planting a church. He had several years of ministry experience in secondary staff roles. Yet, as he considered planting, he found himself overwhelmed by the need to cast his lot with one of three very different opportunities. “I’m afraid I’m going to make a mistake,” he told me.

“Bubba,” I replied, “if you are unable to make a decision because you are afraid of making a mistake, forget planting a church. The truth is you will make mistakes. If making them is going to strike that much fear in you, you don’t need to be leading a church.”

Point leaders are not those who consistently make decisions quickly or easily, but they are not crushed by the potential of making the wrong decision. At times we will make a bad decision. If we develop the discipline to learn from those mistakes to make better decisions in the crises that await us, we are ready to lead, and we need to be leading.

How do you respond when things go awry?
I have yet to meet a church planter, entrepreneur or political leader who said, “Everything has happened exactly as I planned and expected.”

Unexpected circumstances come. Economies turn. A pandemic may strike. A person on your team may fail, rebel or undermine you.

If you tend to blame other people or external circumstances for the lack of results or success, these are attempts to escape responsibility. It is a way of saying, “It wasn’t my fault.”

A point leader understands that he or she is ultimately responsible. If a quarterback underperforms consistently and constantly complains about the lack of protection by the offensive line or his receivers’ inability to create separation from the defensive backs covering them, he is not leading. He will destroy his team’s trust in his character, undermining his ability to lead them.

A point leader understands his or her responsibility for the failure or disappointment of the team, church or business. Perhaps she didn’t communicate effectively enough. Maybe he missed the clues of a softening market for his product. If an employee fails, the point leader knows the hiring, training and management of that employee was his or her responsibility.

Even if you are beginning to doubt whether you are a point leader, know that there is an opportunity for you to grow. How will you respond to that realization? Now may be the moment when motivation becomes internal for you. Perhaps now is when you decide to take action to grow in your leadership capacity.

by Dennis Conner  
/  Strategy Coordinator  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

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